Several members of the two-component signal transduction family have been implicated in the control of polar development in Caulobacter crescentus: PleC and DivJ, two polarly localized histidine sensor kinases; and the response regulators DivK and PleD. The PleD protein was shown previously to be required during the swarmer-to-stalked cell transition for flagellar ejection and efficient stalk biogenesis. Here, we present data indicating that PleD also controls the onset of motility and a cell density switch immediately preceding cell division. Constitutively active alleles of pleD or wspR, an orthologue from Pseudomonas fluorescens, almost completely suppressed C. crescentus motility and inhibited the increase in swarmer cell density during cell differentiation. The observation that these alleles also had a dominant-negative effect on motility in a pleC divJ and a pleC divK mutant background indicated that PleD is located downstream of the other components in the signal transduction cascade, which controls the activity of the flagellar motor. In addition, the presence of a constitutive pleD or wspR allele resulted in a doubling of the average stalk length. Together, this is consistent with a model in which the active form of PleD, PleD approximately P, negatively controls aspects of differentiation in the late predivisional cell, whereas it acts positively on polar development during the swarmer-to-stalked cell transition. In agreement with such a model, we found that DivJ, which localizes to the stalked pole during cell differentiation, positively controlled the in vivo phosphorylation status of PleD, and the swarmer pole-specific PleC kinase modulated this status in a negative manner. Furthermore, domain switch experiments demonstrated that the WspR GGDEF output domain from P. fluorescens is active in C. crescentus, favouring a more general function for this novel signalling domain over a specific role such as DNA or protein interaction. Possible roles for PleD and its C-terminal output domain in modulating the polar cell surface of C. crescentus are discussed.